Sunday, 10 June 2012

Five ideas for Apple Mail to better accomodate 'rules' troubleshooting.

Written for the software developers behind Apple Mail's 'rules'.

Using rules to automatically sort out your Inbox is similar to baking a cake; just one poorly-judged ingredient can ruin the batter. One of 360 rules used to manage my Mail inbox was created in haste and had been placing nearly all the email messages I received into the wrong folder...  As testimony to how good Mail's search functionality is, this had happened for months and I only noticed my mistake last week!

To say it was a serious time-suck to resolve is an understatement. Rather than write on how I fixed it, here are five functionalities that would make it relatively easy for users to troubleshoot their badly-defined rules in Mail. Mail's software developers, please consider adding these ideas under Preferences > Rules, thanks!:

1. Show how often a rule has been actioned.
If the user can see that a rule is actioned with every single message, regardless of origin, it is likely that the rule is problematic and should be changed.

2. Show the date that each rule was created.
By seeing when misplaced messages were first placed, it is generally easy to spot the date at which the wrong rule was created. The user could then simply see which rule was created on, or just before, that date, then correct it.

3. Allow the user to sort rules by date.
It may be a problem local to my system, but I cannot sort the rules and am unsure how Mail goes about ordering them. It would be useful if users could sort the rules by their name and/or the date they were created.

4. Allow the scroll window size to be maximisable.
Scrolling through many rules in the small window, below, is an eye-straining, slow process.

Apple Mail Preferences' Rules (10 June, 2012) 
The user should be given the option to maximise the rules window to speed it up.

5. Allow the user to define a default option for Mail 'rules'.
A new Mail rule currently defaults to whatever was last applied. However, it would be safer for users to given the option to create a default rule and choose whether it should be re-applied after every new rule is created.

I enjoy using Mail and it makes rules simple to create. However, if a user creates a poorly defined rule {amongst many other well-defined ones}, it can be difficult to identify his or her mistake. Here's hoping that Mail's developers will support 'occasional dummies' like me with better rules troubleshooting functionality in the not-too-distant-future.

Let my blog's readers know your thoughts in the comments box below. Ta.

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